Today is Labor Day here in the U.S. I must confess that Labor Day is one of those holidays that has always confused me, mainly for its contradictory nature.
I mean on Mother’s Day, we celebrate mothers and gift them with the present of doing nothing all day (not that many mothers get away with actually using the gift). Father’s Day is the same way. We encourage fathers to do “their own thing” on their special day. The effects of most holidays coincide with the original purpose behind said holiday.
But not so Labor Day.
“Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”
Now, one would think from this description that workers should have the day off to relax and reap the rewards of the labor they’ve given to their employers and to society as a whole. And indeed, there are some who do have the day off. However, many of the hardest working folks do not. On this day of celebrating their contribution to the world as we know it and to the workforce in general, they are instead forced to work.
Retail workers bear the brunt, just as they do at Thanksgiving and Christmas, given all of the sales that crop up on Labor Day. But they’re by no means the only ones. Food service, convenience store workers, gas station attendants, paramedics, all manner of hospital employees to name a few. And yes, some of these good folks are essential personnel and life is much better and much safer (for the rest of us) with them in their respective jobs, even on holidays, and we’re thankful for it. Others not so much. Retail, food service, convenience stores, grocery stores. There’s no reason to not let these people enjoy a much deserved paid day off except… except… that it cuts into bloated profits. And we can’t have that now, can we?
So when all is said and done, Labor Day has been turned into a perverse contradiction of its original meaning and rather than truly celebrating the worker, it has devolved into just another way to take advantage of those who cannot afford to lose their jobs by protesting a holiday shift.
Such is America.
Labour day in Aotearoa New Zealand occurs on the fourth Monday in October and commemorates the introduction of the 8-hour working day. It was first celebrated in October 28 1890, which happened to be the 50th anniversary of the 8-hour working day.
I hadn’t thought of it that way before. Our equivalent day is May 1st.
I didnt know that so many people have to work on labor day in the USA! Seems very contradictory!